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Sudan Justice: Stonings, Amputations

Human Rights Watch Letter

Lieutenant General Omar Hassan El Bashir
President of the Republic of Sudan
People's Palace
P.O. Box 281
Khartoum
Sudan

Your Excellency,

We are writing to express our deep concern over a ruling by a criminal court in Nyala, southern Darfur, that sentenced Abok Alfa Akok to death by stoning after finding her guilty of adultery. We are equally concerned about the use of amputations as a punishment, also in Darfur.

 Death Penalty and Fair Trial

As an international organization committed to the defense of basic human rights, we oppose the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty and irreversibility. We are also concerned about the fair trial violations surrounding Ms. Akok's trial. We urge you to intervene on her behalf to prevent this cruel and inhuman punishment from being exercised against her. We also ask that she be provided a new trial in compliance with international standards of fair trial, if the charges against her are not dismissed on appeal or otherwise.

The cornerstone of human rights is respect for the inherent dignity of all human beings and the inviolability of the human person. These principles cannot be reconciled with the death penalty, a form of punishment that is unique in its barbarity and finality. Stoning to death is additionally painful and brutal. Furthermore, article 6 (5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Sudan ratified in March 1986, strictly prohibits the carrying out of capital punishment on a pregnant woman.

Based on information from reliable sources, on December 8, 2001, a criminal court in Nyala, southern Darfur, sentenced to death by stoning eighteen-year-old Abok Alfa Akok, a Christian woman from the Dinka tribe, after finding her guilty of adultery. Ms. Akok was pregnant at the time of her conviction. She did not have legal representation during the trial. The trial was conducted in Arabic, which is not her language, and there was no translation of the proceedings in order to ensure that she understood fully the case against her. The man with whom she allegedly had sex was not tried, because the court lacked sufficient evidence to prosecute him. The case is now on appeal.

Amputations

We would also like to express our condemnation of the cruel and inhuman punishment of limb amputations, most recently applied by emergency courts established under the state of emergency. Based on reliable reports, in December 2001 at least six men in the states of Northern and Southern Darfur have been sentenced to limb amputations.

We request that you intervene in these cases, as both the cruelty of amputation and questions of fair trial raise concern in all these convictions. Article 7 of the ICCPR states, No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Limb amputations are cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment in that they mutilate the convicted person, subject him to discrimination and isolation, and disable him from most gainful employment.

On December 12, 2001, a special emergency tribunal in Nyala, Sourthern Darfur convicted Abdu Ismail Tong and Yousif Yaow Mombai of stealing three million Sudanese pounds (approximately U.S. $1160). They confessed while in police custody, but later denied the crime, raising serious concern about the possibility of confession under duress. They were not allowed to be represented by advocates during their trial, and the court sentenced them to amputation of the right hand.

On December 25, 2001, a special emergency tribunal in Alfahir City in Darfur sentenced Mohamed Adam Yahya and Ahmed Suleiman Mohamed to amputation of the right hand followed by death by hanging. They were convicted of armed robbery.

On December 27, 2001, Adam Ibrahim Osman and Abd Allaha Ismail Ibrahim from the town of Um Kadada were sentenced to cross amputation, i.e., amputation of the right hand and left foot. The emergency court convicted them of banditry and possession of unlicensed weapons.

Under the state of emergency, emergency courts are authorized to deal summarily with crimes such as armed robbery, murder, and smuggling of weapons. One civil judge and two military judges head these courts. The accused are not allowed legal representation. They are allowed only a week to appeal to the district chief justice. In May 2001, these courts reportedly started to function in Southern and Northern Darfur states, where the six men described herein were convicted and sentenced. The lack of legal representation for the accused, the summary nature of the proceedings, and the limited right of appeal (here only to the district judge in Darfur) directly contravene international commitments that Sudan has adopted under the ICCPR.

Human Rights Watch urges you to ensure that these cruel and inhuman sentences are not carried out. Human Rights Watch also urges you to ensure that the courts operate in accordance with international human rights law, particularly the ICCPR.

Sincerely,

Peter Takirambudde
Executive Director
Africa Division
LaShawn R. Jefferson
Executive Director
Women's Rights Division

 

cc:
Mr. Ali Osman Yasin, Minister of Justice
Mr. Mustafa Osman Ismail, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Dr. Ahmed al-Mufti, Advisory Council for Human Rights
Ilham Ahmed, Permanent Mission of Sudan to the United Nations

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